Happy 2019! I’m excited about this year and I hope you are too. Since this is my first post of 2019, it seems obligatory to bring up new year’s resolutions. Many people’s goals revolve around health, fitness, and weight loss – topics I’m happy to discuss! Due to this trend, January tends to be the month that we eat cleaner and ditch bad habits we’ve accumulated over the holidays. In sticking to this theme, I wanted to talk about weight loss and the detoxification process. I’ve written about the detox process before on my site – which you can read here – but I wanted to highlight the specific role that detoxification plays in weight loss.
Detoxification is our body’s way of getting rid of toxins from pro-inflammatory foods, alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, and foreign substances such as heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, environmental chemicals, and more. What many people don’t realize is certain toxins increase obesity (directly or indirectly) by altering metabolic processes that can predispose people to weight gain. There’s even a term for these chemicals – they’re called obesogens.1 Say what? These obesogens can alter obesity in various ways; they can affect the number of fat cells, the size of fat cells, and the hormones that affect appetite, satiety, food preferences, and energy metabolism.2 For example, chemicals like phthalates (which are found in many fragrances) are linked to increased waist circumference and insulin resistance and BPA (found in plastics) is linked to increased abdominal fat and glucose intolerance. 3,4
In addition, many environmental chemicals are lipophilic (literally “fat loving”) which means they are stored in adipose tissue, a.k.a. fat cells.5 Here’s what happens: when you are exposed to chemicals, your body tries to remove them from circulation so they can’t harm you (smart). And since many of these chemicals are lipophilic, they’re stored in fat cells. Once they’re safely stored in your adipose tissue, they stay there…hibernating. Then, when you lose body fat from diet or exercise, the breakdown products are released into your bloodstream – hence, you’re exposed to these chemicals once again. If your body’s detoxification pathways are sluggish, you can’t get rid of those toxins fast enough. So, what does your body do? It gets them out of circulation and back into fat cells. This basically means your body resists the burning of fat to prevent a toxic overload. In essence, your body hangs on to fat so it can keep you safe from toxins. This vicious cycle makes it harder for you to lose weight and it’s a factor that many people don’t understand. Therefore, it can be very frustrating to diet and exercise without losing weight – your body seems to be working against you, when in reality it’s trying to protect you.
But there’s hope! There are many ways to support your body’s natural detoxification pathways. And if you support the detox process, you’re supporting your ability to lose body fat – a win win! Take these steps to reduce your exposure to chemicals and pro-inflammatory foreign substances and optimize your metabolism of these toxins.
- Eliminate or limit consumption of pro-inflammatory foods. This includes alcohol, caffeine, sugar, “fast” or processed foods, and hydrogenated or trans fats. It also includes heavy metals such as mercury from certain fish and lead from contaminated water.
- Reduce exposure to chemical and environmental toxins. Eat organic when you can (I follow the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list) to minimize exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and farm chemical residues. Use eco-friendly cosmetics, personal care products, and cleaning agents.
- Eat a clean diet that will support all phases of detoxification. This includes plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, especially the cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, plus lean protein sources like chicken, turkey and fish.
- Enhance elimination (think sweating and regular bowel movements). Drink plenty of water – half your weight (in pounds) in ounces of water – eat high fiber foods, and move or exercise daily. Sauna therapy is also a great way to sweat out all those toxins, just be sure to rinse off in a cool shower afterwards.
- Employ stress relieving activities. Stress can be toxic to the body. Activities like yoga, meditation, or simply deep breathing help relax the mind and body, and release extra carbon dioxide via the lungs. Getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep is also critical for rebuilding and restoring your cells and tissues.
There are additional ways to enhance detoxification, such as taking supportive herbs and supplements, but those should be given under the supervision of your nutritionist or integrative health care practitioner. I also have a comprehensive 7 Day Detoxification program which promotes overall health and weight loss. Contact me for details!
- Grün F, Blumberg B; Environmental Obesogens: Organotins and Endocrine Disruption via Nuclear Receptor Signaling, 2006;147(6):s50-s55, https://doi.org/10.1210/en.2005-1129
- Lustig RH, ed. New York, NY:Springer: 2010. Obesity before Birth: Maternal and Prenatal Influences on the Offspring.
- Stahlhut R, et al. Concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with increased waist circumference and insulin resistance in adult U.S. males. Environ Health Perspect. 2007;115(6):876–882. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.9882[PMC free article] [PubMed]
- Holtcamp W. Obesogens: an environmental link to obesity. Environ Health Perspect. 2012;120(2):a62-8.
- La Merrill M, Emond C, Kim MJ, et al. Toxicological function of adipose tissue: focus on persistent organic pollutants. Environ Health Perspect. 2012;121(2):162-9.